111: Nate Chinen
I first reached out to Nate Chinen to do an interview in 2015. At that time, I knew him as the jazz critic for the New York Times and a columnist for Jazz Times, and I also loved the book he wrote with George Wein Myself Among Others. (I interviewed George a few years ago as well.)
In the intervening years, Nate left the New York Times, became the Director of Editorial Content at WBGO (one of the most important jazz radio stations in the country) and wrote the book Playing Changes: Jazz for the New Century, which was published last week.
Reading Playing Changes was a revelation for me. In it, Nate synthesizes many of the tendencies in and arguments around jazz over the last 20 years, and presents a case for contemporary jazz today. He also traces the narrative back to the 1970s, a time when jazz was in transition, and stitches together the disparate threads of the music that have emerged since then into a cohesive fabric.
Chinen is obviously a fan of the music, but it’s clear in his book that he’s also a fan of musicians as well.
I spent an afternoon with him in his home in Beacon, New York, talking about Playing Changes, jazz criticism, displaced backbeats, the importance of live music, and the trouble with trying to define what music should and shouldn’t be. This is a conversation I’ve waited a long time to have and it was absolutely worth the wait.
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